Activists Warn Neighbors of Priest Accused of Rape
David Kelley Never Charged, but Has Faced 38 Civil Suits
By Angela Sachitano
The Leaf-Chronicle [Clarksville TN]
October 17, 2004
Residents of a Clarksville subdivision are worried about the safety of their children after learning a former Catholic priest accused of child molestation has moved into their neighborhood.
A former priest, David Kelley, moved to the Hunters Point neighborhood off Tiny Town Road in February after being removed from the priesthood by the Diocese of Cincinnati.
"It scares the daylights out of me," said Rhonda Greene, a mother of children ages 3 and 5 who lives down the block from Kelley. "We don't want him here."
Although never criminally charged or convicted, Kelley has had 38 civil cases filed against him for claims ranging from forced oral sex to rape between 1978 and 1987, said Konrad Kircher, an attorney in Cincinnati representing the accusers.
Advocates of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) spent hours Thursday blanketing Kelley's neighborhood with flyers reading, "Child Molester Alert," showing Kelley's address and a history of the allegations against him.
"I can't believe how many children are around here just a few steps away from his house," said Ann Brentwood, co-director of Tennessee SNAP, who traveled from Knoxville to warn Kelley's neighbors.
Kelley could not be reached for comment. No one answered knocks on his door Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon and evening, and his telephone number is unlisted.
Kircher said many of Kelley's accusers were preteens when they were abused, and it took them decades to come to terms with the abuse and have the courage to speak up.
According to reports in the Cincinnati Enquirer, church officials acknowledged that Kelley, who was placed on administrative leave last month, was sent to a New Mexico treatment facility in 1987 for counseling related to alcoholism and sexual issues.
But they say the only specific claim of abuse against the priest came in 1994, when a man told them Kelley fondled him when he was a teenager in the 1970s. By that time, the statute of limitations had expired and Kelley could not be prosecuted.
The statue of limitations for child sexual abuse in Ohio is 10 years from the time the child turns 18, and two years in a civil case.
In Tennessee, a victim of child sexual abuse has 15 years from the time the crime is committed to press charges.
However, the Diocese of Cincinnati, where Kelley spent more than a decade as a priest, was convicted in November 2003 on five counts of failing to report the crimes of Kelley and one other priest. As part of the plea agreement, the church paid victims $3 million and agreed to turn over all of Kelley's personnel files.
Kelley also was removed from the priesthood.
"This man repeatedly hurt young boys, and the church new about it," Kircher said. "We knew if we couldn't get Kelley, we would have to go after those who ignored it."
Interviews with the lawyer and SNAP members familiar with Kelley's case and a review of court documents offered no explanation of why Kelley moved to Clarksville.
Clarksville police say there haven't been any charges against Kelley here. But SNAP advocates think that residents should be aware of Kelley's background.
"Pedophiles don't change," said Susan Vance, co-director of SNAP Tennessee. "It's a sickness."
Local Catholic Church officials have been told about Kelley.
Diocese of Nashville Director of Communications Rick Musacchio said the Diocese of Cincinnati notified them of Kelley's move to Clarksville. Immaculate Conception, the only Roman Catholic church in Clarksville, was immediately informed and instructed not to let Kelley participate in the ministry, he said.
"It is the Catholic Church's policy that if someone has been credibly accused of a crime, even one time, they are automatically removed from the church," Musacchio said. "The church has strong, safe procedures in place to respond to these things."
Musacchio said the "one strike policy" is part of the Charter for Protection of Children and Youth created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The charter was created in 2001 after molestation charges against Boston priests sparked a nationwide controversy.
As part of the charter, the Nashville diocese is also responsible for letting Department of Children Services know Kelley's whereabouts.
But because Kelley is not a convicted criminal, there's not much DCS or local authorities can do.
SNAP advocates say Kelley's case is an example of why the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims needs to be eliminated.
"It takes years for victims to come forward," SNAP's Brentwood said. "They are traumatized and ashamed and shouldn't be penalized for that."
Neighbors say they are relieved that SNAP advocates took the time to notify them Kelley was in the area.
"The thing is we would never have even known he was here," said Andrew Greene, a resident in Kelley's subdivision. "I am infuriated, and it takes all I can do to contain myself."
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